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Brewing history: A collector's guide to antique teapots & tea sets


Porcelain and pottery items used for the sole purpose of enjoying tea span a bewildering range of styles. It’s possible to find antique teapot treasures, as well as saucers, jugs and antique cups at reasonable prices - the charming wares have been a firm favourite in Britain ever since tea was introduced as ‘by the Chineans tcha’ in the 1630s. 

Tea was a luxury item when it first arrived in Europe. Its high cost meant that early antique tea sets were small in size. Imitations of Chinese antique teapots and other wares were produced around 1710 in Saxony at Meissen, identifiable as red stoneware invented by Johann Friedrich Bottger and later Chinese blue-and-white copies in the 1730s. The latter can be exceptionally valuable if wares are decorated by J.G. Horoldt - even one or two antique tea cups for sale will reach around £3,000.

British antique tea sets

Subsequent to the common blue-and-white Chinese porcelain in the early years of British tea and coffee drinking was Staffordshire salt-glazed stoneware. You’ll recognise these wares from their porridge-grey colour and orange-peel-like texture. A mid-18th-century antique tea pot can sell anywhere from £600 to £10,000 - look out for antique teapots moulded into unusual shapes such as houses, ships, shells and creatures, which go for an average of £2,000. 

‘Agate’ antique tea sets are also highly desirable - recognisable from their marbled clay in a variety of colours. These were produced by Thomas Whieldon and John Astbury - famous Staffordshire potters - whose antique teapots and coffee pots go for up to £5,000 at auction. Whieldon was once in a partnership with one of the most famous potters of all time, Josiah Wedgwood, who left the venture to found his own pottery business in 1759 and in doing so, revolutionised British ceramics.

Wedgwood antiques

A name synonymous with British antique tea sets is Wedgwood. Josiah started his venture producing ‘Queen’s Ware’, named after he made cream-coloured earthenware for Queen Charlotte which led to huge commercial success. Antique Wedgwood creamware can be found among dealers up and down the country today, selling for £40 and upwards. 

New experiments led to new exciting types of Wedgwood antiques. Jasperware was introduced in 1774 and soon became the pottery’s best product. It’s recognisable as white dense stoneware with exquisitely sharp details which made it perfect for Greek and Roman imitations covered in cameos - very much in vogue at the time. Affordable Jasperware can be found for around £100, but rare antique Wedgwood for sale can go for up to £50,000. 

19th-century antique cups, saucers and teapots

A drop in tea prices resulted in a demand for finer antique tea sets. Josiah Spode was the man to solve the problem - creating a formula for bone china produced in large quantities. These kind of antique tea cups for sale (with saucers) can be picked up at auction for around £50-£200, with an antique teapot pricing up between £300 and £500. Full antique tea sets in Staffordshire bone china can sell at auction for up to £600. 

Collectors of antique tea caddies, cups, saucers, and other wares will always be on the lookout for Royal Worcester - some of the finest antique tea sets for sale from the end of the 19th century. These were beautifully decorated with drops of enamel and gilded scenes of flora and fauna. Complete antique tea sets can fetch up to £5,000 at auction, while antique cups and saucers go for around £100-£200 each. 

Towards the end of the 19th century came a deluge of eggshell porcelain. This is usually lower quality, badly painted antique tea sets - random cups and saucers only sell for around £1-£15 so aren’t worth collecting if you’re hankering a solid investment. 

Where to buy antique tea sets

Beautiful ceramic teaware can be found everywhere from car boot sales to specialist auctions. Whether you’re interested in Oriental antique tea sets or Wedgwood antiques, our selection of antique tea cups, saucers, teapots and more will pique the interest of any pottery and porcelain enthusiast. Browse online or visit our vast centre for a proper look at the unique and stunning wares on offer - it’s the most effective (and enjoyable) way of hunting down a top-quality bargain.

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